Sermon #6 Galatians Series
Title: “Justification by faith”
Text: Galatians 2:11-19
Subject: Paul’s confrontation with Peter
We now approach the heart of this epistle, which concise as it is, may be regarded as the keystone of the New Testament; for it most conspicuously sets forth and defends the Biblical answer to the fundamental question, “How shall a man be justified before God?” The entire scope of Divine Revelation focuses on the answer: This gives Paul’s reproof of Peter at Antioch very high significance. No issue could be more vital, for on it was suspended the survival or the shipwreck of the early church.
One person stands out in this crisis. It is that of the great Apostle to the Gentiles. The crisis called for a man, and the man, in god’s providence, was there. As in the case of Joseph, of Moses, of Samuel, of David, of Elijah, and of Daniel, the situation depended upon one individual; and his name was Paul. God has little use for committees and corporations. His greatest works in the history of mankind have been wrought by single men, men single eyed and strong in the Holy Spirit for the cause of truth. God “called Abraham alone and blessed him.” So Paul was called alone. No capital was behind him; no society, or party was behind him; no apostle was behind him. Even Barnabas had deserted his cause. Like Luther, and Calvin, and Knox, he stood alone.
What was it that Paul so boldly and singularly stood for on this occasion? “Justification by Christ alone;” Christ and Christ only as over against and in sharpest contrast to everything outside of Christ for the justification of guilty sinners, was Paul’s subject. Any other message is another gospel. It was either Christ or nothing. He must be all in all in the matter of salvation. There is no such thing as Christ doing his part to save us and us doing our part. We have no part except that of a poor beggar, who empty handed, receives a gratuitous gift of mercy and compassion.
In the verses before us Paul continues to prove the essential independence both of his gospel and of his apostolic position. That gospel which had been so enthusiastically endorsed by those “pillars” at Jerusalem was able to assert itself, when necessary, even over against one of those “men of repute.” This episode in which Paul reproved Peter may well have occurred during the interval between the Jerusalem conference and the beginning of the second missionary journey. We are told in the book of Acts that it was then that Paul and Barnabas stayed for some time in Antioch.
Men are justified before God upon the merits of Christ’s blood, apart from anything done by them, and they receive this free-justification by faith. This was Paul’s message.
1. The dispute with Peter (11-14).
2. The doctrine of Paul (15-19).
I. The dispute with Peter (11-14).
NOTE: In verse we are told just why Peter visited Antioch at this time, but that is not important. The important fact is that Peter committed an error of conduct so serious that Paul felt constrained to oppose him to his face.
1. Paul did not go about as a whisperer, backbiter, or talebearer. He withstood Peter to his face as a brother trying to correct the error of another brother.
2. This in no way takes away from the inspiration and infallibility of Peter’s writings.
3. However, this does destroy the Roman Catholic doctrine of the infallibility and supremacy of Peter, and of the pope as Peter’s successor.
A. Peter’s fault (12-13).
1. Peter’s reproachful conduct (12).
NOTE: Peter was to be blamed for his entirely inexcusable action. His behavior was to be condemned. Why?
a. He had been in the habit of eating with his Gentile brethren.
NOTE: The reference here is probably to the fellowship meals, or love feasts of the early Christians. It appears that the Lord’s Supper was usually held at the conclusion of these feasts. There were many abuses to which such social meals could lead, as is pointed out in 1 Corinthians 11:17-34. In Corinth there was a segregation according to wealth, the rich separating from the poor. In Antioch the segregation which occurred was of an ethnic character, the Jewish Christians separating from the Gentile brothers in the faith.
b. Peter knew that the distinction of meats was now laid aside, as well as the distinction of Jew and Gentile, and that nothing, meats or men, was common or unclean of itself (Acts 10:28-48; 15:8-11).
(1.) The Jews were no longer obliged to keep the law.
(2.) Certainly then, the Gentiles, who were never given the law, were not obliged to keep the law.
c. In spite of Peter’s clear understanding of these things, when some men came from the church of Jerusalem, of which James was the pastor, Peter ceased to eat with the Gentiles, who were also believers.
(1.) In doing this Peter hypocritically implied that there was still a distinction between meat and drinks, clean and unclean, and between Jew and Gentile.
(2.) He acted out of cowardice.
2. Peter’s responsible constraint (13).
Others at Antioch, even Barnabas, followed Peter in this act of hypocrisy.
1. Let us recognize the weakness and inconstancy of the best of men when left to themselves.
2. Let us realize that if we seek to please men we are apt to fail in our duty to obey God (Pro. 29:25).
3. Beloved, realize the great force of bad examples – Parents, teachers, pastors.
B. Paul’s frankness (14).
1. Paul’s realization.
He realized that this was contrary to the true gospel, in which there is not one atom of law.
a. In the Gospel there are no prohibitions about eating and drinking (1 Tim. 4:4-5).
b. In the Gospel there is no such thing as Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:13-22; Gal. 3:28).
2. Paul’s rebuke.
a. It was public (1 Tim. 5:20).
b. It was powerful.
Peter had lived like the Gentiles, but now he was, by his action, saying that the Gentiles should live like the Jews. This was inconsistent and obvious to all.
II. Paul’s doctrine (15-19).
Quote: “Paul having thus established his character and office, and sufficiently shown that he is not inferior to any of the apostles, no, not to Peter himself, from the account of the reproof he gave him he takes occasion to speak of that great fundamental doctrine of the gospel – that justification is only by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law.” Matthew Henry
NOTE: I want us to see three things, which Paul here asserts, about the doctrine of justification.
A. The freeness of justification by Christ alone (15-16).
NOTE: The verb “to justify” is in the passive voice; thus literally it is “to be justified.” It occurs here for the first time in Paul’s epistles; and no less than three times in this one verse.
1. The definition of justification.
Justification is that gracious act of God whereby, on the basis solely of Christ’s accomplished mediatorial work, He declares the sinner just, and the sinner accepts this grace with a believing heart (Rom. 8:1, 30, 33; Tit. 3:7).
2. The basis of justification.
a. It is a judicial act of God.
(1.) It does not rest on man’s effort (Rom. 3:20, 28; Gal. 3:11; 5:4).
(2.) It is not even the result of faith (Eph. 2:8).
b. It took place when Christ satisfied the demands of the law as a Substitute for his elect (Rom. 3:24; 2 Cor. 5:21; Eph. 1:7).
3. The acquisition of justification.
a. Man can never earn it.
b. He only receives it by faith.
c. Even his faith is a gift of God’s grace (Eph. 2:8).
B. The fullness of justification by Christ alone (17-18).
1. Because we are justified by Christ alone, we have no obligation to the law; but this does not give us a license to sin (17; Rom. 6:1-2, 15; 7:7).
2. We dare not return to the law, as Peter had done, for this is to sin against Christ (18).
C. The fruition of justification by Christ alone (19).
1. The exercise of the law.
a. The law brings the knowledge of sin.
b. The law condemns (Rom. 7:7-9).
c. The law brings men to Christ (Gal. 3:24).
d. We should use the law for these purposes.
2. The end of the law – “That I might live unto God” (Rom. 6:7; 2 Cor. 5:15).
a. We are not to live unto ourselves.
b. We are to live unto God.
(1.) For his glory (1 Cor. 10:31).
(2.) According to his will.
c. We are never to return to the law (Rom. 7:1-4).
1. We should learn from Peter’s bad example not to fear men.
2. We should learn from Paul’s example to give the doctrine of the gospel the pre-eminent place in our teaching and preaching.
3. We must trust Christ alone for salvation (Rom. 10:1-4).
a. God will accept only his sacrifice.
b. God will freely forgive all who trust Jesus.
Thy works, not mine, O Christ,
Speak gladness to this heart;
They tell me all is done;
They bid my fear depart.
What Jesus is, and that alone,
Is faith’s delightful plea;
It never deals with sinful self
Nor righteous self, in me.